By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India – The country’s second national Gay Pride march was held in New Delhi as Indian officials prepare to repeal an anti-gay law despite opposition from religious and some political leaders. India is one of the few democracies in the world that still criminalizes homosexuality.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was drafted in 1860 by the British and criminalizes consensual sex between adults of the same gender. Those found guilty are punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.
Spokesman for the opposition party, Sidharth Nath Singh, said, “This is a sensitive issue and warrants a debate within the Indian society at large before arriving at any decision,” and the party’s leader remarked that the government should not make changes to the law in haste, adding that India is neither Europe nor America. India’s Law Minister also stated, “[W]e are not going to rush to any conclusion. We will certainly take into account concerns of all sections….”
Conversely, India’s religious leaders oppose repealing the law. Babu Joseph of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India said, “[W]e are certainly in principle against legalizing [homosexuality], because that would mean the state endorsing same-sex relationships,” and homosexuality “violates fundamental norms of a family.” India’s Muslim leaders also oppose repealing the anti-gay law saying, “Islam does not allow any unnatural act. No Muslim in the world, let alone India, can ever support it.”
However, activists are claiming that the homosexuality law violates India’s Constitution, which guarantees all citizens right to equality and personal liberty, and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Supporters of repealing the law also say that the anti-gay law makes it hard for HIV infected gay men to seek medical treatment. A local NGO has challenged the law’s constitutionality with the Delhi High Court, and the ruling is expected next month.
For more information, please see:
Asian Tribune – India will repeal anti-gay law but in a hurry, says Law Minister Moily – 29 June 2009
CNN – India faith leaders: Anti-gay law must stay – 29 June 2009
Times Online – India to repeal anti-gay law as second Gay Pride is held – 29 June 2009